Of Harlings, Hostlings and Chesnaris

Of Harlings, Hostlings and Chesnaris
by Morgana

Story Notes

Editor\'s PickMain pairing: Chrysm/Lisia and Vaysh/Pansea

Rating: NC-17

Summary: A party from Immanion visits Harling Gardens. Among them are Chrysm and Vaysh. While Chrysm uses the chance to further his friendship with Lisia, Vaysh also finds a new friend.
Warning: Alternate Universe.

Author’s Email: morganalebeau@yahoo.com

Web page: http://www.paranoid.nl/avalon

Disclaimer: Not mine. No copyright infringement is intended. All characters belong to Storm Constantine. Spoilers for Breeding Discontent!

Beta read by Patricia and DA, thanks sweeties! All remaining mistakes are mine.

Part 1

Lisia awaited the new arrivals in the main hall. The news that a party representing the Hegemony was arriving that day hadn’t come as a surprise. If he was honest, he had to admit that he had been expecting them to check up on him to make sure he wasn’t breaking any rules. Lisia felt confident he could master any challenges the Hegemony would throw at him.

The former breeding facility had changed into a true home for all the harlings that lived there. Only a handful of very young harlings remained since no new pearls were being created. Only One through Ten were still young enough to be picked up and carried around and that wouldn’t last for much longer at any rate.

Pansea, Lisia’s trusted aid, hurried over to his side. “They’re here, Lis.” Unlike Lisia, he *was* nervous.

Lisia gave Pansea a reassuring smile and patted the harling’s shoulder. Pansea wouldn’t remain a harling much longer. He surmised the harling’s feybraiha would start shortly. “We did nothing wrong, Pansea. There’s nothing here that will displease them.” He had done his best to make his harlings happy. Lisia had overseen the arrival of the new staff and, once he had been certain they measured up to his expectations, they had started to work together. It hadn’t taken Lisia long to realize that they had a common goal, namely making the harlings happy. Once he had realized that, working together had become easy.

Several harlings scooted aside and Lisia drew in a deep breath. He had faced members of the Hegemony before and had stood his ground back then as well. He smiled as he saw at least one familiar face among the hara who made their way toward him. During his short stay in Immanion he had talked to Chrysm and they had gotten along remarkably well.

Chrysm returned the smile Lisia gave him. He had volunteered when the Hegemony had demanded a progress report where Harling Gardens was concerned. He had been ready to head the party when Pellaz had suddenly decided to add another har to the group traveling to Harling Gardens. Chrysm had been stunned to hear that Vaysh, Pellaz’ aid and confidant, was going to accompany them.

Vaysh remained at a distance and watched Lisia greet Chrysm. He had seen Lisia when the hostling had visited Immanion to plead his case, but had stayed in the background, like he was doing at the moment. He had no desire to draw attention to his person.

“Lisia, it’s good to see you again!” Chrysm boldly took Lisia’s hands in his and squeezed them. “You look well!” The last time he had seen Lisia the hostling had been thin, pale, and exhausted looking. But Lisia had gained a healthy color, put on some weight, and the caramel hair had taken on a shine.

Lisia returned the compliment happily. “And so do you.” All Gelaming hara possessed the power to dazzle and Chrysm was no exception with his ocher-colored hair and warm chestnut-brown eyes. Dressed in gold and orange textures, Chrysm looked striking and Lisia fought the blush that was about to color his cheeks. He had liked Chrysm during his stay in Immanion and wondered if there was something more where his feelings were concerned.

Chrysm regretted having to share Lisia, but etiquette demanded he introduced his traveling companion. “Lisia, may I introduce Vaysh to you? Pellaz asked him to report on the progress you have made here.” He hoped Lisia understood how important Vaysh was and that Lisia should try to befriend him.

Lisia turned so he could greet Vaysh. He had heard rumors about the har during his stay in Immanion and realized he had to be cautious. It was said that Vaysh was Pellaz’ spy and couldn’t be trusted. The har had a reputation of being haughty, distant, and arrogant. “Greetings, tiahaar Vaysh.” Lisia inclined his head respectfully and hoped he was making the right impression.

Lisia studied the other har and was surprised at what he saw. Vaysh reminded him of how he had looked once when he had been hosting his last pearl. Vaysh looked drained, too thin, and in general, unhealthy. And yet, the har possessed a phenomenal beauty. The high cheek bones, the pallor of his skin, the lively eyes, and the har’s posture gave him a noble appearance. But then the fiery red hair registered with Lisia and seeing it reminded him of a chance meeting he’d had in Immanion. He hadn’t realized it at the time, but he had been talking to Thiede on that balcony. “I hope everything here will be to your liking. We already readied a room for you and tiahaar Chrysm.”

The Harling Gardens was the last place where Vaysh had wanted to be, but he forced himself to reply. “I’m sure the room will be satisfactory.” The fact that he was surrounded by harlings made him nervous. Even when Loki had been growing up, he had made a point not to spend any time with the harling. It was too dangerous for he had feared he might have grown attached to the child. He would never have a harling of his own. Thiede had burned him from the inside and had made him barren. Hosting a pearl or siring one had become impossible. “I’d like to freshen up now.” The curious looks the smaller harlings were giving him made him uncomfortable. Contrary to Chrysm, who had sunk onto his heels and was talking to them, Vaysh stared straight ahead and pretended the harlings weren’t there.

Unfortunately for Vaysh, there was one harling who was determined to be noticed.

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Of Fire and Ice

Of Fire And Ice
by Mischa

Foreword

In the far north, the wind never ceases to blow. In winter it howls down from the mountains, a blinding blast of certain death. In summer, it dances deceptively across the plains of waving grass, spins and dips through the valleys of habitation, carrying with it the spore of death from the Wastelands. The inhabitants of the north are hardy folk. They need to be.

But the Wastelands is also the birthplace of the people. Long before the Sons of the Morning came to this harsh land to show the people the True Light, they had danced at the Citadel to celebrate their creation.

Now they knew the Truth. That they were gajin, white devils, and not truly people at all. Even so, some of the customs of those times remained. When their duties to their Masters and Mistresses were discharged, the campfires lit and the tasks of the day completed, they would gather and tell the stories of the beginning time. Of the days when the first of their people, the Pareah, had crawled from the pits of fire and come to live on the land with their tents and their horses.

For many years they had wandered, until the Gracious Day of Salvation when the Sons had come to Teach and they had seen the Truth with their own eyes. For the Sons and Daughters were divided into two as should be, while they themselves were incomplete, neither one thing or the other. The True God had made man and woman with his own hands, and, crushing together what was left, melding it into a ball of dirty clay, had discarded it over his left shoulder, where it had fallen into the pit and emerged as Pareah, the servants of the Sons.

They knew this was Truth. Every living thing had another. Horses had mares, dogs mounted bitches in the welcome warmth of the spring, even some plants had male and female of their own species. Except the Pareah. Gajin. White Devils. Man and woman combined, birthing eggs as reptiles did, raising young that grew as fast as beasts.

The Masters had tools and knowledge and learning which they would share with the Pareah, if only they would serve. And so they had, and the Masters protected them from the deadly dust, from their own ignorance, from the crazed wanderers who sometimes still staggered in from the Barrens, mouthing blasphemies in strange languages. These strangers were taken away by the Masters so that their ranting did not frighten the very young. The Masters promised to heal these poor souls, sending them back into the Wasteland so that the bright sun might bake their brains sane. It was a comfort to be protected and the Pareah were grateful, doing their utmost to live as the Masters demanded.

But some old customs remained.

Chapter One

Summer: ai-cara 37

Lucien cut around the side of the tent, avoiding the main encampment. The dust oozed up between his bare toes, his hair, refusing as always to be confined to its proper braid, flicked across his face as he ducked under a tent pole.

At the rear of the rows he stopped, looking up and down the back street, in search of Fawn. Usually, Fawn avoided his chores by hiding here, away from the adults stern gaze and propensity for finding work for idle boys. But he was no where to be seen. Disappointed, Lucien squatted down on his heels, resting his back against a water cask.

Today of all days, when he had such momentous news to share with his best friend, he was missing and Lucien had no idea where he could be. He’d searched everywhere he could think of.

Lucien tried to still his rapid heartbeat by taking deep cleansing breaths as his teacher had instructed. But this was too important for calmness. His Change was coming!

Ever since Spring he had felt the eyes of his parents upon him, studying his look and temper, searching for the telltale signs. Janin had even spoken briefly on the forbidden subject, one night as he lay in his bedroll, eyes already drooping shut.

You must tell me when you feel it come, Lucien. It is very important that you do.”

Janin’s kohled eyes had stared down at him fondly, the parent who had borne him, the one to whom he was most attached. Lucien never called Janin his ‘mother’ as the Sons said he should. He refused to even think of Janin that way; both his parents were the same! Lucien kept these traitorous thoughts strictly to himself. He did not want to end up having his brains baked sane on the Barrens in correction!

But he hated it all the same. All of it. The long ‘dresses’ the ‘females’ were made to wear, the codes of conduct that said he must call Janin mother and Aren, father. The laws that forbid Janin to appear in public with hair uncovered or to speak directly to a Master. How could his hostling stand to be so constricted!?

Why should the Pareah aspire to be the same as the Sons? Why did they try so hard, neglecting the old ways of the People?

Lucien drew his finger through the dust. Almost a man, he thought. The Change has come. The Corruption, he corrected himself, forcing the horrid word the Sons used into his fevered brain. I am becoming Corrupt. Imperfect.

Born almost perfect, despite the shell and the disfigured symbol of maleness, the Pareah grew more impure each year until the Corruption came and stained them irrevocably. Only through prayer and obedience could they ever hope to cast out the devil inside them and return to the proper state of Grace. This is what the preacher taught, the Truth that Lucien found so hard to believe in. Especially since last summer.

A yell from down the dusty road broke into his thoughts, scattering them. Fawn came pelting down the street toward him, his russet hair flying behind him like a tent pole flag. Lucien rose and went to meet him, a broad smile creasing his delicate features, remolding his solemn expression into something more boy like. Skidding to a halt beside him, Fawn rested his hands on his knees and bent over to catch his breath.

“Where’ve you been?” Lucien asked impatient of Fawn’s exertions. “I’ve been looking and looking. Master Lui almost caught me.

“I was. . . ” Fawn gasped out, “watching Hanna birth her new foal. Forgot the lesson altogether.”

“You’re gonna get it.” Lucien warned him. “Master Lui noticed you weren’t at class.”

“Don’t care.” Fawn grinned up at his friend cheekily. “I’m gonna Change soon. No more class. Just horses.”

Lucien looked about to make sure they weren’t overheard. “That’s what I wanted to tell you, Fawn.” He dropped his voice to a whisper, “My Change has started.”

“What!” Fawn yelped, his voice rising and falling. He fought to match Lucien’s tone, “Are you sure?”

Lucien nodded. “Night sweats. Shivering all of a sudden. Janin hasn’t noticed yet. I’ve been careful. But he’s gonna. And then I’ll have to go.”

“Aww.” Fawn kicked the dust, raising a small cloud that soon dissipated in the rising breeze. “I was hoping I’d be first, dammit!” He looked toward the mountains, visible over the top of the furthest tent. “We’d better get inside. Wind’s changing. My lodge is empty, Caleb is still down at the pens.”

They went to Fawn’s lodge, weaving across the irregular line of tents, so placed as to cut the afternoon winds and protect the communal area in the center of the tribal circle. The lodge was indeed empty and the two boys made themselves comfortable on the skins with a small bottle of watered cordial between them.

“So,” Fawn burped, swigging from the bottle and handing it across. “Where are you gonna go?”

Lucien lowered his voice again, unwilling to take any chances on passers-by with big ears. “South.” he whispered.

The astonished look on Fawn’s face said more than his clabbering mouth could in that moment. “Are. . . are you still going on about that?! You can’t go South! There’s nothing South except the Barrens and more Barrens. You’ll die for sure!”

Fawn knew, as all the elder boys did, that the expulsion from camp while the Corruption was upon them and the subsequent ‘romin’ they were required by tradition to undertake, were mere formalities. No one did a true romin anymore. Most went further North and visited secretly with relatives and friends in the alpine camps. Other, more adventurous souls went West and East, picking out the artifact they were required to bring back as proof of their travels from the carts of traders who used the trade roads in those regions. No one actually went! And no one ever, ever went South!

“I won’t.” Lucien declared, perhaps with a little more bravado than he felt. “The Barrens do end, they must. Else, where do the strangers come from, eh?”

Fawn favored him with a long, pitying look. “We talked about this last summer, Lucien. You know as well as I do where they come from, don’t be a fool! They’re ghost devils from the Citadel come to lead us away from the True Path! They’re not real.”

“They are real! I know they are!”

Fawn shook his head in mock sadness for his friend’s folly, snatching back the cordial and taking another long swig. Lucien knew his friend was only teasing, well, half teasing anyway, but still it hurt not to be believed.

“It’s all about that devil you met last summer, isn’t it. He fooled you, Lucien. When are you going to wake up? ”

Lucien stood abruptly. “Well, if you’re going to be like that about it, I might as well go home. Tell Janin and get this ‘ceremony’ underway. I don’t care what you say, Fawn. I’m going South and nothing you can say is going to stop me.”

He made for the entrance, stopping and turning as a thought occurred to him. Fawn sat where he had left him, his mouth opening and closing as he looked for words that he could not find.

“Remember your promise, Fawn.” Lucien warned him. “You swore not to tell.”

“But. . . but. . . I thought you were joking. Nobody goes South!”

Lucien shrugged. “I shall. And you promised, under blood bond, to keep it to yourself.”

Gathering the shreds of his dignity, Lucien left the tent before Fawn could respond. It hurt him to think that Fawn had not taken him seriously. He was determined to go South, to find the Citadel and the answers he needed to the questions that had been fermenting in his mind since his encounter last summer with the wanderer, the Wayhu .

I will find my ancestors, he told himself as he walked slowly back to his tent to tell Janin. I will find them and question them about the old ways. Find out if the Truth the Sons teach is the real Truth, or if there is another, like the Wayhu man said.

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Of Snow and Thorns

Of Snow and Thorns.
By Mischa Laurent

Notes

Editor\'s PickDisclaimer: All items contained on these pages are non-profit amateur fiction. The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit, The Bewitchments of Love and Hate, The Fulfilments of Fate and Desire and all characters named in those books are the copyright of Storm Constantine and her publishers. No infringement on the copyrights are intended. These stories are for personal enjoyment only and should be reproduced, electronically or otherwise, only for this purpose and never for profit of any sort. Portions of this story are paraphrased from the Wraeththu novels, and are the work of the original author, borrowed for the purposes of this tale.

Spoilers: None.

Characters: Ashmael, Arahal, Original Character.

Rating: Strong adult themes in latter sections. Disturbing content.

Of Snow and Thorns

In Ferelithia, it seemed, everything was expensive except the weather. Ashmael gave a sigh and paid the extravagant asking price for the mug of ale, then returned to his seat on the pavement outside the cafe, the better to enjoy the free weather. At least that was glorious. The red tiles of the rooftops made a startling contrast against the brilliant blue of the sky and the fluffy white clouds that scudded along, driven by the light sea breeze, were having better luck than he at escaping the confines of the town.

If only Arahal would put in an appearance, Ashmael could persuade him that it was time to be heading back to Immanion. But, of course, Arahal knew he wished to leave and that was precisely why Ash had not seen hide nor hair of him since last night.
Their business with the town guardians’ accomplished, Ash wanted to go home.

Normally Ashmael would be the first to hit the town, eager to drink and flirt, to enjoy the prospect of some rare time for himself. The business and political affairs of the Gelaming took up most of his days and nights, leaving little spare for private concerns. Immanion might be a different place since the Ascension, but still it was difficult to relax when there were so many eyes upon you, judging your actions and hoarding each tiny piece of gossip.

But of late, his capacity for joy seemed to have dried up. His dreams were haunted by visions of the past and the irrational feeling that he should have done things differently. It was irrational and he knew it. This endless revisiting past mistakes, past errors of judgement, had no solution and he awoke each morning, wrapped naked in sweat-stained sheets with only a mounting melancholy to accompany him through his waking hours.

Taking another sip of the sweet ale Ash ignored the interested glances from the hara sitting at the next table while he contemplated his next move. It would be churlish of him to deny Arahal his recreation. One more night in Ferelithia wouldn’t hurt. He could retire early, catch up on some much needed sleep and the two of them could be back in Immanion by noon, mission accomplished.

They were staying at an inn. The consul’s townhouse was without facilities for horses and, where possible, the Gelaming preferred to tend to their mounts themselves. When Ashmael returned to their room, he lay on the bed and waited patiently for Arahal to show himself.

Arahal put in an appearance right before lunch. Clutching various parcels, which he threw on the bed, he stopped in the centre of the room to look down at Ashmael challengingly.

‘Have fun?’ Ashmael asked, glancing disinterestedly at the colourful packages.

‘Yes. I did. Marvellous place, Ferelithia. I bought some silks you won’t believe. Better than anything you can get at home.’ Arahal threw himself down on the bed, forcing Ashmael to shift position lest he be crushed.

Arahal cupped his hands behind his head, and swung his long legs over the side of the bed. He stared at the ceiling. After a while, he asked, ‘Well, aren’t you going to berate me for my frivolity?’

‘Not at all,’ Ashmael countered in smooth tones. ‘In fact, I was going to suggest we spend another night here and leave tomorrow morning.’

Ash was gratified by look on Arahal’s face. He knew Arahal had been expecting a lecture on timing and responsibility and was surprised by Ashmael’s abrupt about-face.

‘I see.’ Arahal said. ‘Changed our mind about having a little fun, have we?’

‘No. But you want amusement and I can’t say I blame you. Things have been kind of hectic lately. If you want to go out and make a little merry, then I’m not going to stop you. I’ll stay here and catch up on some sleep while you go party.’

Arahal propped himself up on one elbow to look down at him, eyebrows raised in disbelief. ‘This is a change,’ he said. ‘Why the sudden role reversal? It’s usually me who’s trying to rein you in, not the other way around.’

He was, of course, quite right. Arahal was not famous for his excesses. Ashmael was. If anything, Arahal was usually the quiet spiritual type, content to leave all the hell-raising fame to his more gregarious partner. But even the quiet, spiritual types needed to let their hair down every now and then.

Ashmael shrugged, pretending to a casualness he didn’t feel. ‘I haven’t been sleeping well, lately. I could use the rest.’

‘I noticed,’ Arahal’s face was serious. ‘Anything in particular? I’ve heard you cry out in your sleep, but I didn’t want to say anything.’

Ashmael ran his fingers down Arahal’s bare arm, caressing the soft flesh on the inside of his elbow. ‘Thanks,’ he said quietly. ‘But, no. It’s just… I don’t know. Dissatisfaction, I guess. Something I must work through on my own, at any rate.’

Arahal smiled at him and, in an uncharacteristic gesture, leaned forward and planted a quick kiss on his temple.

Ashmael was grateful for both his reticence and the brief contact.

‘Well then,’ Arahal said in a brighter tone, leaping from the bed and hustling the parcels onto the chair out of the way, ‘I’ll leave you to it. I’ve met some very nice folk and they’ve offered to show me around after lunch. Meet me for dinner?’

‘Sure. Downstairs?’

Arahal nodded and began to bustle about, getting ready for his expedition.

Ashmael watched him from his comfortable place on the bed, eyes slowly closing. By the time Arahal sneaked out the door to meet his new friends for lunch, Ashmael was fast asleep.

*Fine, white silk, curled in the gutter, with gold at ears and throat, branded and striped with weals. Rotting corpses with blind, ruined eyes that stare into mine with the agony of eternity on their dead minds. Oil-smoke demons writhe and dance over the bodies of the frozen and the dead. And everywhere that cry, ‘There is no way. No right or wrong; not here.*

Ashmael found himself awake and sitting upright on the bed as if about to leap from it. His entire frame shook with reaction. The scenes he relived each night in dreams of late, while disturbing, had never troubled him before. He’d seen much horror. Why had Fulminir chosen to haunt him after all this time?

What could I have done? he thought, in agonized reflection. We were not ready. Could not have saved them all.

But logic seemed to give no ease to these nightmares.

It took an effort to lever himself off the bed. He felt ancient, as if his bones were creaking with the weight of his flesh. The cool water from the ewer on the nightstand went some way toward refreshing him and he used a cloth to wash the sweat from his chest and arms.
He was pulling on a clean shirt when Arahal returned.

‘Sleep well?’ Arahal asked, his back turned, oblivious to Ashmael’s brittle state.

Ashmael took the time this afforded him to sweep away the last of the nightmare and compose his face into an amiable mask. ‘Not too badly, why?’

‘Because you’re late coming downstairs. We’ve been waiting for you, and I decided to come up and fetch you out in case you’d decided to renege on me. But I see now that I misjudged you.’ Arahal turned and grinned at him.

‘As always,’ Ashmael retorted. ‘Is it so late already?’ He glanced out of the window. The sun was indeed setting over the harbour and its dying rays shone through the window directly onto his face. Ash winced and looked away.

‘Yes, My Captain.’ Arahal came over and helped him with his jacket. ‘You have been abed too long. Still, that should leave you nice and fresh for the night’s activities.’

Ashmael glanced suspiciously at him. “What activities?” Arahal locked the door of their room and guided Ash toward the stairs.

‘We’re going to a club.’ Arahal replied, smiling. ‘You should enjoy it. It’s quite famous.’

Ashmael stopped halfway down the stairs, his hands on his hips. ‘I never said I’d come on the prowl with you, Arahal. The idea was that you get to go out and I get to rest, remember?’

‘Oh, come on, Ash,’ Arahal, turned back and joined Ashmael on the middle step. ‘You’ll never sleep again now. Come out and have some fun. It’ll do you good.’

Sighing, Ashmael relented. There was nothing he felt less like doing than spending his evening in some smoky, noisy club, but if it would get Arahal off his back, he’d do it. He could always sneak away after a couple of drinks.

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A Stirring in the Wind

A Stirring in the Wind
by Mischa

Notes

Disclaimer; All items contained on these pages are non-profit amateur fiction. The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit, The Bewitchments of Love and Hate, The Fulfilments of Fate and Desire and all characters named in those books are the copyright of Storm Constantine and her publishers. No infringement on the copyrights are intended. These stories are for personal enjoyment only and should be reproduced, electronically or otherwise, only for this purpose and never for profit of any sort.

A Stirring in the Wind

We’re different, he and I. We know it and so do they. They can smell it on us, I’m sure, even though I’m equally sure that we’ve never given them slightest hint.

They look at us, squinty eyed and almost snarling when we pass. Whispering amongst themselves, working up the nerve to spit at our feet. One day, I know it will be something far worse that they do.

We have to go, get away from the narrow-minded streets and alleys we were born to. Away from parents who stare at us dull eyed and suspicious, not quite sure who we are. Did we spring from these dried-up, fearful loins? Or are we changeling children, destined for something else?

If we are, I don’t know what it is. I only know that this place is choking me, these attitudes are wringing the life from me as surely as the gang kids on the corner would like to wring our necks.

They live in fear, terrified of the death and the decay, the change that they can sense is coming, knowing they have no way of denying it entry.

I welcome its coming. Anything has to be better than this.

I look at him, strolling with false insouciance by my side. To look at us, walking down the cracked pavement, wrapped in tough boy rags and sneering poses, you would never guess at the nights when we sit upon the rooftop of the tenement I call home, arms wrapped around each other, exchanging secrets and kisses as others exchange goods and violence.

I find comfort in his soft skin, his hot wet mouth pressed to mine, the feel of his strength giving way to me willingly as I lay him down on the broken tiles. The crunch of grit and dirt grinding against his back as I push myself inside. Seared nerve endings set off a smell in my brain, like burning rubber, the pounding of my heart, the feel of his pulse against my throat, all these things lend me courage.

After, we lay together, touching, yet apart, sharing a stolen cigarette or just a moment’s peace before we must break away, return downstairs to the lies, the pretense, the despair.

The breeze lifts our hair and whispers promises in our ears, we listen and want to weep with impatience. Make it soon, make it now. Save us.

Whatever it is that I smell on the wind, he smells it too. It’s something for us, coming for us…our time. Seel’s and mine.

The Origin of Angels

The Origin of Angels
by Mischa Laurent

Story Notes

Title: The Origin of Angels
Wordcount: 26,303
Originally Posted: Creation of Angels(1) Lord of Angels(3): July 9, 2002. Army of Angels(2) Grissecon Booklet: Oct 10, 2003.

Author: Mischa Laurent
Contact: thedarkvoice@hotmail.com

Dedication: For Michael. “Angels alone”

Disclaimer: All items contained on these pages are non-profit amateur fiction. The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit, The Bewitchments of Love and Hate, The Fulfilments of Fate and Desire and all characters named in those books are the copyright of Storm Constantine and her publishers. No infringements on the copyrights are intended. These stories are for personal enjoyment only and should be reproduced, electronically or otherwise, only for this purpose and never for profit of any sort.

The Origin of Angels

Foreword

The evening meal was over, the dishes washed in the stream and the babes, children, horses and dogs long since fed.

Grizzling offspring were put to bed in the caravans as the lamps, strung from the trees around the grove were spluttering and swaying in the warm evening breeze.

Now was the time for the tribe to sit around the fire and share with each other the day’s events; to discuss plans for the morrow and finally, as the evening sky darkened from violet to velvet, to sip their beer, reminisce and gossip.

The younger men were engaged in a discussion, talking politics as usual and it was turning into a heated debate, one that the tribal leader, Aarron, wanted to deflect to more placid channels.

Honing in on the subject of the quarrel, he sipped his drink and gazed into the flames, Aarron heard talk of Gelaming edicts and proposed changes to the protected zones.

As a human tribal leader, he should be concerning himself with such things, he knew. But the night was so pleasant and the warmth of the lingering summer had made him lethargic after a hard day of herding cattle through the passes toward winter grazing. He didn’t want to get involved in such a debate tonight.

One name kept recurring in the increasingly loud row; that of the General in charge of the Human Protectorate, General Ashmael Aldebaran, a name Aarron had had reason both to curse and to praise in the past.

The General’s verdicts in matters of dispute had gone both for and against Aarron and his people in the past and this was what the young men were discussing yet again. Would Aldebaran find in their favour this time in their case against the neighbouring tribe who had tried to claim their summer fields as their own?

But Aarron was feeling too good tonight to be bothered with it and sought a way to change the subject without having to quell the discussion forcefully. Looking around the fire, his gaze came to rest on the face of an elderly man named Joshua. The wrinkled visage was apparently lost in thought, eyes turned inward as they stared blindly into the flames, and Aarron had a good idea what he was thinking about.

Joshua was not blood kin of the tribe of Finlata, but he had been a useful and productive member for longer than most of the young bloods of the tribe could recall. Even Aarron, who knew he had at least fifty human years to his credit, could recall Joshua from his childhood. Even then, fifty or more years ago, he had been an old man, quietly going about his duty of tending the horses and keeping the caravans supplied with kindling.

But there was one fact that Aarron had almost forgotten until tonight, a fact that he was sure the youngsters, gesticulating wildly across the flames at each other, were unaware of and it was this piece of almost-forgotten information that he intended to put to use for the sake of peace.

“Joshua.” He said quietly, his voice carrying all the weight of authority to interrupt that he needed. “You knew General Aldebaran, didn’t you?”

All conversation ceased as astonished eyes turned toward Joshua. Joshua Smithy, as he called himself, was a most unremarkable character, the kind of person who tended to be overlooked and taken for granted by all. The quietness of his nature and his disinclination to gossiping or discussing his past, would lead most to think (if they thought of him at all) that Joshua was nondescript and that his life would be likewise.

That this unexceptional individual, so casually dismissed as boring and unimportant in any major way, could possibly be acquainted with such a luminous personality as General Aldebaran, in any way, shape or form, was a shocking and almost unbelievable idea for most of them. They sat stunned, their mouths gaping at the very suggestion by their chief that Joshua might possibly know such a Har.

Joshua nodded, oblivious to the stir the casual statement had aroused. “I did.” He confirmed. “Many years ago, when I was a lad. I knew Aldebaran.”

“You did?” August, the most mercurial and curious of all the younger lads, was the first to speak. Aarron could have confidently laid a bet with no fear of losing, had he needed to predict the first questioner.

“But, how? Where did you meet him? What is he like?” August leaned forward, his posture conveying his earnest intent. The other lads followed likewise; the air suddenly peppered with questions as the curious began their inquisition.

Aarron leaned back against his log, content. He vaguely recalled the tale from childhood, but much of the detail escaped him and he was kind of looking forward to hearing it again if the lads could persuade the reticent Joshua to tell it. Even if they failed, the peace had been restored and Aarron could at last enjoy his beer in relative harmony with the balmy summer night.

But it seemed the boys’ discussions had fired old Joshua’s memory and he almost seemed to smile as he dipped his tankard into the barrel for a refill. Perhaps it was the debate; perhaps it was the beer and the clement weather that loosened his tongue, or maybe he was just in the mood for a bit of storytelling. Whatever the case, Joshua settled further down into his lambs’ wool robe and began to speak.

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